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Talking Cash Machines Go Live in New Zealand

Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from E-Access Bulletin, Issue 68, August 2005. New Zealand's first talking bank cash machines (ATMs) have been installed by 13 branches of the country's credit unions, it was announced last month. And all machines installed in future will have speech capability, according to the New Zealand Association of Credit Unions (NZACU):

Customers of the not-for-profit unions, which provide banking and insurance services, can access the ATMs through a universal headphone socket using any standard set of headphones.

As well as providing vision-impaired users with greater independence, the new machines also enable more privacy when carrying out transactions, NZACU spokesperson Vicky Mackenzie told E-Access Bulletin.

"What's really good about the machines is that the screen goes blank once you plug the headphone in, so a sighted person standing close by would not be able to see or hear what transactions are being carried out," Mackenzie said.

The talking ATMs also provide users with detailed information about their withdrawals. "The machine tells the user the number of notes that have been dispensed.

New Zealand currency varies only very slightly in size and the notes feel quite similar so it would be difficult to tell what denomination they are. But with the machine, if you withdrew 100 dollars, it would tell you that you've received five notes or 10 notes or two notes, so you would know what denomination they are in," said Mackenzie.

"The [New Zealand] banks do not have this facility available and the Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand have been pressuring them to make a change but they have met with the same response as you have in the UK," said Mackenzie. "However, with the Credit Unions being the first to release these ATMs, there would be a fair amount of social pressure now on other financial institutions to upgrade," she said.

A recent E-Access Bulletin investigation revealed that most major High Street banks in the UK have no plans to introduce talking cash machines in the near future (see also Issue 67, July 2005).

Reproduced with permission from E-Access Bulletin, a free email newsletter on access to technology by blind people: